Audi R8 goes rear-wheel drive at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show

Published: 11 September 2017

► First rear-wheel drive R8 road car
► 533bhp, 393lbft, 0-62mph in 3.7sec
► On sale in Europe this autumn

As other supercar makers continue to add complexity, Audi seems determined to keep going the opposite way. Non content with keeping the R8 as a non-turbo 5.2-litre V10, it’s now gone and binned the four-wheel drive.

That’s right – for the first time ever, Audi will now sell you a street version of the R8 that only sends power to the back axle. Perhaps appropriately, the new model is called the Audi R8 RWS; for apparently it will happily let you steer from the rear even without fully disabling the electronic safety net.

Is this really the first rear-wheel drive Audi R8?

As an official, series production road car, yes.

There have been various tuners willing to remove front diffs and driveshafts previously, and the racing versions are all rear-wheel drive, but the R8 RWS is the first road-going variant Audi Sport itself has produced.

Audi R8 RWS

Of course, since the R8 is basically just a Lamborghini Huracan in a better made (if considerably less stylish) suit, it’s not really that big of a deal, is it? You’ve been able to buy a rear-wheel drive one of those since 2016.

What does the RWS part stand for? Has it actually got Rear Wheel Steering?

Not in the sense that fruitier examples of the Porsche 911 and Mercedes AMG GT have fancy electronically actuated, angle-adjusting rear axles, no. If you want your R8 to steer from the rear, you’ll have to make it do so with your right foot.

The RWS in R8 RWS actually stands for Rear Wheel Series. Confusing, but there you go…

How much power has the R8 RWS got?

You’ll also have to make do with the ‘entry-level’ 533bhp version of the V10 – rather than the full-fat 602bhp Plus version (or the 572 the rear-wheel drive Lambo offers). Steady on, Audi, let’s not get carried away.

Even without the traction-adding front-wheel drive, this is still enough power to see off 0-62mph in 3.7sec in the Coupe and 3.8sec in the Spyder – which probably answers your next question.

The rear-wheel drive Audi R8

Top speed is 320km/k (near as dammit 199mph) for the former, 318km/h (197mph) for the Spyder.

Amusingly, Audi has given us different fuel economy figures for the latter depending on whether you’re driving top up or top down; rest assured you won’t see those figures in the real world anyway, so let’s skip that particular nugget.

How much lighter is the rear-wheel drive Audi R8 RWS?

Going for a rear-end only R8 rocket saves you 50kg on the Coupe and 40kg on the Spyder.

So you can really over-indulge this Christmas and still expect to beat the AWD model’s power-to-weight ratio in the new year.

Does the rear-wheel drive Audi R8 RWS have a drift mode?

How old are you? Anyway, not in so many words. But according to Audi:

‘The chassis setup and control systems allow controlled drifts if the driver chooses ‘dynamic’ mode in the standard Audi drive select dynamic handling system and sets the Stabilization Control ESC to ‘Sport’. The ESC intervenes reliably at the limit.’

So. Hands up who’s now itching to find out how close to disaster ‘reliably’ gets you…

Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that Audi claims to have retuned said chassis to emphasis the new rear-biased dynamics, resulting it what it calls ‘incredibly fun driving.’

How do I tell an Audi R8 RWS from the regular version?

Much of the exterior detailing is matte black on the rear-wheel drive model, including the grille and  the air ‘apertures’; the upper side blade on the Coupe is finished in gloss black as standard, while the lower portion is body coloured.

Side profile: the Audi R8 RWS

An optional red stripe is offered, should you want yours to look like the R8 LMS GT 4 customer racing car.

The wheels are 19-inches in diameter front and rear, and also finished in black. The interior gets a combo of Alcantara and leather, plus a plaque on the dashboard denoting that the car is ‘1 of 999’ examples.

When does the Audi R8 RWS go on sale and how much does it cost?

We need to confirm exact details, but European sales start in Autumn – so not long after its debut at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show. In Germany, prices start at 140,000 Euros for the Coupe, 153,000 Euros for the Spyder.

As that plaque suggests, ‘just’ 999 examples are available in total.

Click here for the full A-Z of the 2017 Frankfurt motor show on CAR magazine

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Automotive Hub, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count